BACKGROUND: The UK National Health Service Emergency Departments (ED) have recently faced increasing attendance rates. This study investigated associations of general practice and practice population characteristics with emergency care service attendance rates.
METHODS: A longitudinal design with practice-level measures of access and continuity of care, patient population demographics and use of emergency care for the financial years 2009/10 to 2012/13. The main outcome measures were self-referred discharged ED attendance rate, and combined self-referred discharged ED, self-referred Walk-in Centre (WiC) and self-referred Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) attendance rate per 1000 patients. Multilevel models estimated adjusted regression coefficients for relationships between patients' emergency attendance rates and patients' reported satisfaction with opening hours and waiting time at the practice, proportion of patients having a preferred GP, and use of WiC and MIU, both between practices, and within practices over time.
RESULTS: Practice characteristics associated with higher ED attendance rates included lower percentage of patients satisfied with waiting time (0.22 per 1% decrease, 95%CI 0.02 to 0.43) and lower percentage having a preferred GP (0.12 per 1% decrease, 95%CI 0.02 to 0.21). Population influences on higher attendance included more elderly, more female and more unemployed patients, and lower male life-expectancy and urban conurbation location. Net reductions in ED attendance were only seen for practices whose WiC or MIU attendance was high, above the 60th centile for MIU and above the 75th centile for WiC. Combined emergency care attendance fell over time if more patients within a practice were satisfied with opening hours (-0.26 per 1% increase, 95%CI -0.45 to -0.08).
CONCLUSION: Practices with more patients satisfied with waiting time, having a preferred GP, and using MIU and WIC services, had lower ED attendance. Increases over time in attendance at MIUs, and patient satisfaction with opening hours was associated with reductions in service use.
- Longitudinal study
- ‘Emergency service hospital'
- Primary health care
- Population characteristics
- Multilevel modelling
- Continuity of care
- Alternative health care service